It takes a special kind of footballer to be recognised the world over simply by a nickname. William “Dixie” Dean is such a footballer and the devoted flocking to the Floral Pavilion in New Brighton were treated to show that would have made the maestro proud.
For those who don’t know – for example, those who have been living on Mars – Dean scored sixty goals for Everton in a single season. That’s a fact a lot of pundits push out, but rarely is it mentioned that in total for that season, including internationals and other appearances, Dean amassed over 100 goals in that same period during the 1927-8 season so what price his talents today, if Cristiano Ronaldo is “worth” £80million?
The play takes the form of a narrative history, with John Keith reading from his own script whilst Steve Hazlehurst fills in the blanks superbly as Dean, from a young football-loving lad, watching the soldiers troop off to the Great War right up until when the genius (as Bill Shankly called him shortly before Dean died) passed away, somewhat fittingly, watching his beloved Everton in a derby match at Goodison Park in March, 1980.
Just two men, a stage and a story? Not much to get excited about really, but in the hands of these two, with Keith’s enigmatic voice and Hazlehurst’s consummate skills as an actor delivering peerless performances, the audience are transported effortlessly back to the heady days of inter-war Britain, where times were incredibly hard and where football as a game – a beautiful, passionate all consuming, no-holds-barred working man’s pleasure rather than the business it is today – MATTERED.
Such is the zeal with which the story is enacted, with a warts and all approach that unearths some fascinating facts, grown men wept at its it’s culmination and women with patience enough to accompany those men to the show but with next to no interest in the sport, sat spellbound.
Such is the power of the performances and the story.
If ever there’s been a tribute to a true football legend that’s better than this then it’s not passed this way before and if you are lover of football, Evertonian or not, or simply a lover of theatre, then go and watch two fine performers wield their magic because, like Dixie, this a truly class act.